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School Board meeting heats up

Despite numerous pleas to reinstate Nash-Rocky Mount Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson, the board held firm to their decision to accept his resignation.

A special called meeting was held on Monday night at Rocky Mount High School. The meeting initially had a closed session on the agenda but was later amended to include other items. The meeting was also moved to Rocky Mount High School on Monday after reports that a large crowd would be attending.

Over 300 showed up at the meeting on Monday, filling the Black Box Theater. Some were there to show their support for Jackson but others were there to show their support for the six board members who voted to accept Jackson's resignation.

The six board members, Brenda Brown, Wayne Doll, Ricky Jenkins, William Sharpe, Reginald Silver and Wendy Wilson, accepted Jackson's resignation on June 29 following a lengthy closed session.

During the meeting on Monday night, over 20 people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Most of those spoke against the board's decision.

Among those were Nash County Commissioner Board Chair Fred Belfield.

Belfield, who said he was speaking as a citizen and not on behalf of the board, said he was ashamed of the six board members who voted for Jackson's dismissal.

"I know things when I see them," Belfield said. "I know racism when I see it. I know the good 'ole boy network when I see it and you got both of them right here."

Belfield said he had worked hard over the years to support education and help secure funding for the schools.

"It just makes me boiled to see what you have done after all these years that I've pushed and supported education," Belfield said. "You're going to have to win my confidence back because you just lost it."

Others who spoke also pointed at racism as the factor behind the decision.

Andre Knight, who leads the local chapter of the NAACP, said the decision to get rid of Jackson was about power and race.

"This is our Charleston," he said. "This is our Selma."

Knight called the issue a "modern day lynching of our first black superintendent."

Knight finished his comments by saying he was afraid of what the board's decision was provoking. He led a chant of "fire up and ready to go."

Others speaking against the decision questioned the reason behind it. The board has not given a reason behind the resignation, except for saying it was "time for a change."

Jon Hardy, a former member of the Board of Education, said he was concerned about how divided the school board was.

He questioned how information from the board's closed sessions is continuously getting out into the public.

"That's wrong and that's why we have this situation," he said.

Hardy also expressed concern over the bill the school system would have to pay, which he said could get up to $300,000.

"Folks, it could have been handled better," Hardy said. "Dr. Jackson, from day one, has followed the direction of the board."

Parents and even a student also spoke in favor of Jackson.

But some spoke in favor of the board's decision.

Mary Jo Karner, a former teacher who retired last year, said Jackson's decisions significantly affected teachers.

Karner said Jackson came into the school system making sweeping changes. Some were good, she added, but they left teachers struggling to stay ahead.

"Teachers have been choking on the multiple initiatives in short time spans," she said.

With the 1:1 initiative, Karner said implementation guidelines were concerning but no one listened to the concerns of teachers.

Karner said teachers were unable to teach.

"Instead of teach, we were monitoring and policing," she said.

"We should have been consulted more about the problems and listened to."

Jennifer Aycock, a teacher for 15 years, said it was time to move forward.

Aycock, who no longer teaches, said there were times she agreed and times she disagreed with Dr. Jackson.

Aycock said she has several friends who have already left the school system.

"There are reasons why they leave," she said.

But, she still has many other friends, who are in all areas of education, still employed at Nash-Rocky Mount Schools.

"None of them are happy here," she said.

Aycock said the school system has an anti-bullying policy for students but nothing for teachers and parents. Lately, it seems one is needed for them as well, Aycock added.

Though the board allowed for everyone to speak, Board Member Wendy Wilson issued a statement prior to the comments.

Wilson, speaking on behalf of the six who voted for Jackson's resignation, said the decision was final.

"The six of us remain unified in our decision from last Monday night and will not be reconsidering that decision tonight and at anytime in the future," Wilson said.

"This is not a decision we have taken lightly," she added. "There is a time in every organization where a change in leadership is called for and we believe that time is now for Nash-Rocky Mount Schools."

But three of the five board members who voted against Jackson's resignation also spoke out.

Board Member Ann Edge said Jackson had brought recognition of the school system on the state and national levels.

"It is a sad day when petty politics and deception outweigh what is best for our children and our system," Edge said. "It am still puzzled as to why there is such a malicious effort to remove him except to say it is race based politics and a few don't want to take direction from a strong African American man. They prefer the "good old boy days" rather than hiring individuals according to their qualifications."

Edge said the board had been divided since January, when "a few newly elected board members with the support of one or two others unleashed negative agendas upon the board and our system."

Edge said it would be a mistake if Jackson left the school system.

"The problem is grounded in race and deception."

School Board Chair Evelyn Bulluck also spoke out. Bulluck said the majority of the board decided Jackson had to go in January. He was told to find another job or be terminated without cause.

Bulluck said there has never been a credible answer given to why he has to go. She's been told he's arrogant and doesn't speak to people but said that wasn't grounds for termination.

"There is something very wrong here," Bulluck said.

Bulluck also questioned what happened over the Christmas break, when the board had just approved renewing Jackson's contract.

"I refuse to be silent any longer," Bulluck said.

Board member Doneva Chavis-Battle also spoke and said she was disappointed in the board's decision.

Also during the meeting, the board moved forward with hiring the North Carolina School Board Association to assist with hiring a new superintendent. The board will meet again on Monday, July 13 to further discuss the next steps.

Following the meeting on Monday, the board went into closed session and approved personnel recommendations when it convened back in open session. None of those actions included appointing an interim superintendent.

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